President Donald Trump has praised Australia's single-payer health care system, describing it as superior to the U.S. model. The president made the remark on the day that he heralded the House Republican vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
On May 4, Trump sat down with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Intrepid in Manhattan, New York. The two world leaders asserted that they had a good working relationship following a testy phone conversation in February, The New York Times reports.
"We have a fantastic relationship, I love Australia, I always have," Trump said.
Earlier that day, House Republicans voted to pass the American Health Care Act, the GOP legislation intended to replace the ACA. Trump had praised the vote as a legislative victory for his administration, although the bill will still have to clear several congressional hurdles before becoming law, the Washington Post reports.
"We have failing health care," Trump said. Turning to Turnbull, he added: "I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do."
Trump effectively praised single-payer with his comments. Australia has provided universal health care to its citizens since 1984, its government system coexisting with private options. The country's universal coverage is primarily funded through a Medicare tax that extends to its wealthiest citizens, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
It is currently impossible to determine the breadth of coverage that the AHCA would provide because House Republicans voted on the latest version of the bill before the Congressional Budget Office could provide an estimate of its impact on the health care market.
On March 13, the CBO score of an earlier version of the AHCA found that it would raise premiums for the elderly and would result in 24 million fewer Americans having access to health insurance by 2026 than if the ACA was kept in place.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had proposed a single-payer health care system during his 2016 presidential campaign, burst into laughter after seeing a clip of Trump praising the Australian system.
"The president has just said it," Sanders told MSNBC. "That's great. Let's take a look at the Australian health care system, and let's move ... Let us move to a Medicare-for-all system that does what every other major country does."
The senator added that the Democrats would use Trump's comment against the GOP during congressional debates, stating: "We'll quote you on the floor of the Senate."
While available evidence indicates that the AHCA will not provide universal coverage, Trump had previously supported a single-payer system in his 2000 book, "The America We Deserve."
"We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by health care expenses," Trump wrote, according to PolitiFact. "We must not allow citizens with medical problems to go untreated because of financial problems or red tape ... We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-player plan."